If you haven’t heard about the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), it’s basically a wide-field survey reflecting telescope and also the world’s largest digital camera, with an 8.4-meter primary mirror, currently under construction, that will photograph the entire available sky every few nights. A 3.2-gigapixel prime focus digital camera will capture a 15-second exposure every 20 seconds. The 15-second exposures are a compromise to allow spotting both faint and moving sources, with each spot on the sky is imaged with two consecutive 15 second exposures, to efficiently reject cosmic ray hits on the CCDs. Gizmodo recently got the chance to get up-close with the telescope on the El Peñón peak of Cerro Pachón, a 2,682-meter-high mountain in Coquimbo Region, in northern Chile. The site construction began on April 14, 2015, with engineering first light anticipated in 2019, while science first light in 2021, and then full operations for a 10-year survey beginning some time in January 2022. Read more for two more videos and additional information.
NASA’s Mars InSight lander launced from Vandenberg Air Force Base back in May, and is scheduled to land just north of the Martian equator around 3 p.m. EST on Nov. 26. While Insight won’t be able to move about on Mars like the Curiosity Rover, it will be using a suite of instruments and a seven-foot-long robotic arm to drill up to 16-feet below the surface at its landing site, Elysium Planitia. Its ultimate goal is to compare the interior of Mars to that of Earth so researchers can better understand how these rocky worlds formed billions of years ago. Read more for another mission overview video and additional information.
NYU researchers used a neural network to generate synthetic fingerprints that work as a “master key” for biometric identification systems. The system is called “DeepMasterPrints,” and the team was able to imitate more than one in five fingerprints in a biometric system by taking advantage of two properties of fingerprint-based authentication systems: the first being that most fingerprint readers image whichever part of the finger touches the scanner, and second, some features of fingerprints are more common than others. Read more for pictures of the AI-generated fingerprints and additional information.
NASA recently tested their all-new Ignition Overpressure Protection and Sound Suppression Water Deluge System at the Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Pad 39B for its new Space Launch System (SLS). This test created a giant 2-million liter (450,000 gallon) water fountain in just over a minute. “When the mobile launcher is sitting on its pad surface mount mechanisms, the rest of the Ignition Over-Pressure/Sound Suppression System is connected to the pad supply headers and the water will flow through supply piping and exit through the nozzles…[as the water subsides], it flows into the flame trench and onto the east pad surface before finding its way to the east and west holding ponds through channels, called water flumes, or off the pad surface through the water drains and trenches,” said Nick Moss, NASA’s pad deputy project manager. Read more for another video on the SLS and additional information.
NASA held a multi-year challenege to design a 3D-printable Mars habitat using on-planet materials, and a handful of teams have taken home their share of a $100,000 prize, with first place going to Team Zopherus (bottom in image above). Since the five winners have already been chosen, they’re all set to build scale models next year of their digital representations. “We are thrilled to see the success of this diverse group of teams that have approached this competition in their own unique styles. They are not just designing structures, they are designing habitats that will allow our space explorers to live and work on other planets. We are excited to see their designs come to life as the competition moves forward,” said Monsi Roman, program manager for NASA’s Centennial Challenges. Read more for another video and additional information.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft managed to capture this incredible up-close photo of Jupiter’s swirling clouds in the planet’s North-North Temperate Belt (NNTB), one of the distinct cloud bands. Because of its rapid rotation, it’s shaped like an oblate spheroid (it has a slight but noticeable bulge around the equator), while the outer atmosphere is visibly segregated into several bands at different latitudes, resulting in turbulence and storms along their interacting boundaries. Read more for another picture, video and additional information.
Astronomers from Harvard University have suggested that the mysterious cigar-shaped object, nicknamed ‘Oumuamua, meaning “a messenger that reaches out from the distant past” in Hawaiian, spotted tumbling through our solar system last year may have been an alien spacecraft sent to investigate Earth. “Oumuamua may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization,” they wrote in the paper, which has been submitted to the Astrophysical Journal Letters. Continue reading for another video and more information.
It’s official, NASA astronauts have taken the controls of the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule that will be used to transport them to the International Space station for the first time. Yes, they’ll be wearing all new “Stromtrooper” space suits as well, as they blast off late next year following a series of delays. “Commercial crew astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are getting familiar with operating inside SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, fully suited!,” NASA tweeted. Continue reading for another video and more information.
FloodBreak’s automatic flood barrier looks normal, or invisible, at first, but it actually helps protect infrastructures from floods and hurricanes. It works perfectly for flash floods and in areas that are unprepared for natural disasters. Thanks to the hydrostatic pressure of the flood water, the gate does not need to be controlled or operated by people. Continue reading for two more videos and additional information.
We have seen the future of tiny robots, and they include RoboFly, a laser-powered, toothpick-sized bot that specializes in disaster recovery, or going where humans can’t. University of Washington engineers have managed to complete un-tethered flights with RoboFly, meaning no wires at all. “Before now, the concept of wireless insect-sized flying robots was science fiction. Would we ever be able to make them work without needing a wire?,” said co-author Sawyer Fuller, an assistant professor in the UW Department of Mechanical Engineering. However, full autonomy is still around 5-years away. Continue reading for another video and more information.